PARIS – The SAD 17 Board of Directors on Tuesday unanimously authorized submitting an updated school reorganization plan that does not meet financial targets set by the state.

Superintendent Mark Eastman told directors that despite attempts to trim the budget in the areas of building maintenance and transportation, school officials were unable to meet the state’s target because of high energy costs.

“We were doing everything we could in that area,” Eastman said of attempts to trim the budgets.

He said the primary problem was the fact that because SAD 17 has one of the largest school transportation needs in the state and is one of the few districts having to make double bus runs, the high cost of fuel is simply too much to overcome.

The district met the state’s target for special education and systems administration costs, which are the other two areas state education Commissioner Susan Gendron identified as needing to be reduced.

SAD 17 is allowed to file an alternative plan to comply with the state law on school reorganization because its population is above the 2,500 threshold for consolidating, but it had to reorganize its administrative structures to reduce costs.

The submission of the alternative plan will officially end its attempt to merge with SAD 39 in Buckfield, Hartford and Sumner.

But the district will continue and hopefully expand its collaborations, such as sharing the technical school, adult education and other initiatives with SAD 39, Eastman said.

SAD 17 had hoped to develop an alternative organizational structure with SAD 39 but discovered they had to file not only the alternative organizational structure plan, but were also required to file a reorganization plan. A requested extension on the November deadline for submission of a plan was not possible without legislative intervention, according to Gendron.

SAD 39 is now attempting to merge with SADs 21 and 43 in the Rumford/Dixfield area.

The next step in the process is for the commissioner to review and approve the SAD 17 alternative plan.

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